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Pedersen v. Bio-Medical Applications of Minnesota

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 10, 2014

Lisa Pedersen, Plaintiff,
v.
Bio-Medical Applications of Minnesota d/b/a Fresenius Medical Care, Defendant

Kaarin S. Nelson, V. Joshua Socks, Clayton D. Halunen, Halunen & Associates, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Marko J. Mrkonich, Rhiannon C. Beckendorf, Sarah J. Gorajski, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant.

OPINION

Page 935

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Lisa Pedersen alleges in this action that her former employer, Defendant Bio-Medical Applications of Minnesota d/b/a Fresenius Medical Care (" BMA" ), a dialysis company, terminated her employment after she reported that certain blood samples had been improperly handled. She asserts a single claim under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (" MWA" ), Minnesota Statutes § 181.932. BMA now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, its Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The pertinent facts are undisputed. BMA operates dialysis clinics throughout Minnesota, serving individuals suffering from " end-stage renal disease." BMA's patients typically require treatment two or three times per week, with each treatment lasting three to four hours.

Part of the treatment process for a dialysis patient involves monitoring the levels of certain substances in the patient's blood. To accomplish this, BMA staff members draw blood from the patient and ship it to an independent laboratory, Spectra Laboratories, Inc. (" Spectra" ), for processing, after which Spectra sends the results back to BMA. Blood drawn by BMA must be refrigerated until it is packaged, in an insulated box with ice packs, and shipped to Spectra via overnight delivery; blood that rises above 46 degrees can be " compromised"

Page 936

and provide inaccurate testing results, potentially leading to dangerous (possibly fatal) consequences. Blood samples that have been improperly stored, however, are not necessarily redrawn from the patient. Rather, BMA staff will check to see if the samples are still cool and, if so, repackage them properly and ship them to Spectra. BMA will then compare Spectra's results to the patient's prior laboratory results, and only if the results are skewed will BMA redraw the patient's blood for analysis.

In 2007, BMA hired Pedersen as a Patient Care Technician (PCT), assisting patients during their dialysis treatments. Because she enjoyed the work and hoped to advance her career, she completed additional schooling to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and, later, a registered nurse (RN). After becoming an RN, Pedersen began working for BMA as a per diem nurse, working with BMA's contracted nephrologists [1] to provide direct patient care. Eventually, though, she sought a more regular hourly schedule and began working at BMA's clinic on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. There, she reported to Clinic Manager Jennifer Bard who, in turn, reported to Area Manager Celestine Kienzle. She also occasionally covered shifts at other BMA clinics, including one in Shakopee, Minnesota.

On the morning of April 12, 2012, a PCT (Yolanda Doss) discovered that blood drawn the previous day in the Shakopee clinic had not been picked up by Federal Express and had instead been left overnight, packed with ice but in the wrong type of shipping box, in the clinic's front lobby. Pedersen, who arrived to work at the Shakopee clinic at 5:30 am on April 12, also was told by several patients that blood samples had been " left out again." Doss touched the specimens and noted they were still cool, refrigerated them, and then repackaged them in the correct box and sent them to Spectra. There is no evidence in the record indicating the samples ever exceeded 46 degrees.

On April 13, the Manager of the Shakopee clinic, Joelle Ince, learned about the samples that had been left out overnight on April 11. She called her Area Manager (Kienzle), who told her to contact Spectra. Ince did as she was told but inadvertently called " Allina's" [2] blood lab rather than Spectra. Allina informed her that ...


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